Sternoclavicular joint (SCJ) infections are rarely encountered and their management is not well standardised. We reviewed our experience with the management of this condition in order to evaluate the role of surgery in the management of the SCJ infection and to provide an algorithm for its treatment.

It is a multicentre study in which we retrospectively reviewed the data files of the patients who were referred to us for surgical management of SCI infection.

From March 2003 to June 2009, 14 patients (12 men and two women) were treated surgically for infected SCJ. No patients were found in the paediatric age group. Mean age was 49.8 years with a range between 26 and 77 years. All patients were symptomatic. The prevalent symptom was either anterior chest wall swelling (21%) or pain (29%); while 50% of them presented with both swelling and pain. Associated risk factors were elicited in 12 patients (86%) while it could not be identified in two patients (14%). These risk factors were in the form of drug addiction in three patients, diabetes mellitus (DM) in four, chronic renal failure (CRF) in three patients and two patients had both DM and CRF. Surgical management was performed in all patients in the form of either incision and drainage in two patients (14%); or SCJ curettage in three patients (21%), while resection of the SCJ was done in nine patients (62%). Mean postoperative hospital stay period (PHS) was 8.1 days (range: 5-30 days). All of them are alive and free of symptoms in follow-up.

Surgery was found to be curative with good results for those patients with SCJ infection that did not respond to a full course of intravenous antibiotic therapy. Surgical options include incision and drainage, curettage or SCJ resection. The type of surgical procedure depends on the radiological findings, presentation, severity of the infection and intra-operative findings. In our experience, complex muscle flap reconstruction was not necessary following SCJ resection.

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